“Hey, are you waiting for the CT Limo?” I asked the person next to me as I just put down my overstuffed suitcase and backpack in the waiting area of Bradley International Airport.
I followed the signs that most people in my situation would use to profile a potential Yalie. Young: check. Suitcase stuffed to the brim: check. Dark blue backpack: perfect.
She exclaimed “yes,” and we exchanged typical getting-to-know-you-isms. What’s your name? What year are you? What college? What’s your major? What do you do on campus? This is the set of questions I call the initials.
That is usually how far our initial conversations go when we see each other on or off campus. Those conversations detour to awkward silence — or an extended questionnaire based on things we happen to notice at the time, such as the weather — and end with the infamous “let’s grab a meal sometime.” That line is often reserved for people we don’t know very well but see every once in a while in some random place. It’s virtually inescapable. Or is it?
My conversation at the airport went beyond the two typical paths onto an unpaved one. Beyond the initials, I noticed something different, an authentic sharing of lives that grew to include another Yalie waiting for the finest transportation available and continued on the ride back to Yale.
We all shared the experience of going far away from campus — whether to go home or to visit family — to get away from the excitement of Yale. I noticed a sort of cynicism from the youngest one of our small group. She felt life passing her by. I laughingly replied that she’s too young to be cynical. When our peers are seemingly doing everything and we are left standing still, it is very easy to lose track of our own qualities — whether we approach everyday situations with caustic humor or score goals on the soccer field or use that complicated scientific procedure that nobody else ever understood.
We traveled through curiosities such as why groups of senior citizens only talk about politics and medical conditions, who is performing for Spring Fling and how the Yale administration will try to enforce the ban on fraternity rush for first semester freshmen.
We joked about absurdities: what our driver was doing coasting through three lanes on I-95 and why Orgo is a gut. (Consensus was it isn’t. Pre-med students can calm down.)
As we got to the familiar Phelps Gate, I remembered a common phenomenon. We would all part ways and rarely or never see each other again, reverting back to the initials that so often replace genuine human interaction. Although parting ways is a natural part of everyday life, I cannot help but think about the uncertain terms we leave people on — not just with new acquaintances but even with our closest friends.
It is no fault of our own, of course. With so much on our minds, we often lose track of people. There are classes, what our friends posted on Facebook, our summer internship plans, that funny viral video of the talented animal, our potential perfect lives after college and chicken tender day in the dining hall.
We make excuses — lots of them — in our minds. That person may not run in our immediate social circles and thus might not be into that new show everybody’s watching or frequent the same weekend destinations. Or we might not remember a new person’s name.
Paralyzed by the choice between building a bridge and burning it, we look for a middle ground and declare something neutral: “Let’s grab a meal.” We want to have our cake and eat it too.
It is outlandish to insinuate that CT Limo provides instant networks of friends, but it can teach us something. Taking people out of their constructed safety zones can spark authentic conversation that might continue beyond the initials — or not, if we don’t want it to. Continuing those relationships is a decision, and further decisions determine where the road will lead.
We tend to leave our interactions with people in friendship purgatory. But we should make the judgment about whether to follow through. We shouldn’t remain stuck at a fork in the road.
And that is what I learned on a CT Limo.
Morkeh Blay-Tofey is a junior in Trumbull College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.